Tag: Vaccine

NEWS ANALYSIS: Human life in a poor country is as precious as in a rich country

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Leaders at the G7 2021 Summit. Photo-G7 2021

To ask for international cooperation while denying this assumption amounts to sheer chicanery. If universal vaccination is to become a reality before millions more die, there has to be a massive increase in vaccine output.

By Prabhat Patnaik

A spade must be called a spade. The biggest ally of the coronavirus today, as it decimates mankind, is the institution of capitalist property rights. The Economist magazine estimates that the actual death toll across the world from the virus so far is not three million, as officially claimed, but 10 million; and the virus is far from finished. The only way that its march can be checked is through universal vaccination of the entire population of the world. Everybody, including even the International Monetary Fund or IMF, agrees on this. But, if universal vaccination is to become a reality before the virus has killed millions more, then there has to be a massive increase in vaccine output.

What stands in the way of such a massive increase in vaccine output is the intellectual property right of a few multinational drug companies which have largely used public money to develop the available vaccines but which have no qualms about clinging on to their monopoly positions to profiteer from human misery in the name of recouping the investment that they themselves scarcely made.

US President Joe Biden’s assent to a temporary waiver of patent rights on vaccines was a significant development; but unless there is general agreement on the issue at the World Trade Organisation or WTO, such a waiver cannot come into being. And the capitalist governments of Europe are solidly behind their “own” multinationals in opposing such a waiver.

It has been estimated that if the entire available production facility is utilised for producing vaccines without the encumbrance of patent rights, then 60% of the world’s population could be vaccinated before the end of the current year which would effectively end the killing spree of the virus. But, negotiations at the WTO, where Germany and others are firmly opposed to a temporary waiver of patent rights, could themselves drag on for months, even until the end of the year.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, is planning to place before the G-7 summit a proposal that the entire world should be vaccinated by the end of 2022. But even if G-7 agrees to it and the target is actually met, millions more would have died by then. The point is to save them now by abridging private intellectual property rights.

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Vaccination in West Bengal,India. Photo-ANI

Many have talked of a “vaccine apartheid”, which refers to the fact that the bulk of vaccine production has been cornered by the advanced capitalist world until now, leaving very little for the Third World. For instance, by the end of April, while 40% of the US population and 20% of the European Union’s had received at least one dose of the vaccine, the corresponding percentage for Africa was only 2%.

In India, to this date, only 3% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The advanced countries have cornered for themselves, not just till now but even for the foreseeable future, the bulk of the vaccine production. They have placed advanced orders for these vaccines, not just for use but even for stockpiling.

This vaccine apartheid, however, has two distinct components, both attributable to metropolitan capitalism. One is the inadequacy of production because of patent-based monopoly restrictions so that advanced countries can corner the bulk of it. This is attributable, as we have seen, to property rights.

The second is the absence of fiscal support for vaccination programmes in the Third World countries compared with the advanced capitalist countries. This dichotomy between the two sets has been apparent for quite some time. Support for the population during the pandemic has claimed as much as 20% of the government budget in many advanced countries compared to a bare 2% or even less in most Third World countries.

The same dichotomy extends to subsidising vaccination; as a result the poor in the Third World simply cannot afford to be injected with vaccines that are priced way beyond their reach.

Ironically, the same IMF that has come out in support of universal vaccination imposes fiscal austerity measures on Third World governments as conditionality for giving them loans or for re-negotiating their earlier-contracted loans. This second component contributing to the vaccine apartheid, therefore, is attributable to the hegemony of finance capital that is opposed to all government activism, except in its own interests. (In India, of course, it is not any IMF-imposed fiscal austerity that accounts for the government’s reluctance to provide free vaccines to all, but the utter bloody-mindedness of the Narendra Modi government).

It has been estimated that a programme of universal vaccination would cost no more than around $50 billion, a sum that can be easily provided by the advanced capitalist world and given as a non-repayable transfer to the Third World. Ironically, however, despite almost everyone repeating ad nauseam such truisms like “nobody is safe until everybody is safe”, no initiative for such a transfer is as yet visible on the horizon.

 

If a patent waiver is not immediately feasible, then the production of vaccines can still be expanded through compulsory licensing, for which there is a provision under the WTO in cases of “national emergency”; and the current situation eminently qualifies as a “national emergency”. Chapter XVI of the Indian Patents Act, which was amended to make it “TRIPS-compatible”, provides for compulsory licensing.

The argument for compulsory licensing is exactly the same as for the patent waiver, namely, that in a “national emergency” when vaccine output needs to be expanded rapidly, the world cannot wait for the original patentees to meet its needs in their own sweet time. And yet there is much opposition to compulsory licensing not only among the drug multinationals and the governments of advanced capitalist countries backing them, but also among several institutions and individuals otherwise supportive of a patent waiver.

Curiously, the Indian government which, along with South Africa, had asked for a patent waiver, has also turned down any plans for compulsory licensing, with its so-called “think tank” NITI Aayog publicly vetoing the idea.

Why this should be so remains a mystery. The fear of offending drug multinationals and the advanced country governments that stand behind these multinationals, through undertaking unilateral action (for that is what compulsory licensing amounts to) may explain the reluctance of the Modi government; what it amounts to, however, is the loss of thousands more of lives. The pusillanimity of the Modi government is particularly striking because vaccine stocks in the capital city of Delhi have been depleted for two weeks now (June 7).

No pious pronouncements about international cooperation or about the need for universal vaccination will carry any conviction unless there is a simultaneous demand for either an immediate patent waiver or for compulsory licensing in its absence. This is because what is involved here is a matter of basic principle: does the right to life of an Indian or an African or a Latin American matter any less than that of a European or an American? Any international cooperation must be based on the fundamental assumption that the life of a person from a poor country is as precious as that of a person from a rich country. To ask for international cooperation while denying this assumption amounts to sheer chicanery.

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True, any government has a right to prioritise the lives of its own citizens before it meets any international obligations. But for advanced country governments today, it is not a question really of the lives of their own citizens versus the lives of citizens of other countries; the lives of one set of people are being pitted against the lives of another because of the overall shortage of vaccines which is an artificial shortage caused by the need to protect private intellectual property rights. It is this protection that prevents an increase in vaccine output. It is, in short, not a question of people versus people, but one of the people versus profits.

The remarkable thing is that the people in advanced countries understand this. A vast majority of them are actually in favour of a temporary waiver of patent rights on vaccines. It is the governments, especially in Europe, that are opposing it, which only underscores the proposition that while governments are concerned with protecting class interests (and the property rights associated with them), it is the people who are the carriers of international solidarity.

Source- newsclick.in

More than 50,000 Australians want Australian Govt. to stop blocking the TRIPS waiver

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By SAT News Desk

SYDNEY, Ahead of the WTO TRIPS Council meeting, a group of civil society organizations including Amnesty International Australia, GetUp!, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, AFTINET, Public Services International, and the Humanism Project gathered outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Sydney today to hand over more than 50,000 signatures in support of fair access for vaccines for all.

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international treaty which regulates intellectual property rights.

In October 2020, India, South Africa, Kenya, and Eswatini proposed a temporary waiver on provisions of the TRIPS Agreement due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. This waiver would entail the removal of the hefty barriers to research, creation, and supply, which are large obstacles to the ‘prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19.

Addressing the gathering Tim O’Connor, Amnesty International Australia Campaigns Manager, said: “Amnesty International is calling on the Australian government to stop blocking the TRIPs waiver and not put big pharma ahead of people. Australia has a vital role to play in the equal access of vaccines, particularly in our region. We want Australia to be the good global citizen when it comes to promoting and defending human rights, especially in the time of COVID-19.”

Dr. Haroon Kasim from The Humanism Project said: “We urge the Australian government to recognize their human rights obligations, recognize the right to health and life for all, stop blocking a consensus decision on TRIPS waiver and support developing states to more readily protect themselves and their citizens from this raging pandemic. The right to health and life should be the most important consideration in these decisions.”

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Paul Oosting, GetUp National Director, said: “It’s abhorrent that Australia is one of twelve member states blocking this lifesaving proposal. Over 50,000 people have signed petitions to demand the Morrison Government stand with people and not profits for big pharmaceutical companies. The COVID-19 vaccine waiver is more than just intellectual property – it’s a matter of life and death.”

Others who addressed those gathered were Kate Lee, APHEDA EO, Michael Whaites, Manager – Public Health Organising Team, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and Dr. Patricia Ranald, convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

Today’s action was supported by Amnesty International Australia, Getup, The Humanist Project, ACTU, AFTINET, PSI, and the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

All PHOTOS- Supplied

Australian anti-vaccine Facebook groups swell nearly 300 % during pandemic

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By SAT News Desk/Medianet

MELBOURNE, 18 May 2021: The number of Australians following public anti-vaxx Facebook groups grew nearly 300% during the pandemic, Reset Australia has found, in direct correlation with Australia’s rising vaccine hesitancy rates.

Reset Australia’s report identified 13 public Facebook groups with users based in Australia and tracked their growth between January 2020 to March 2021. The 13 included anti-lockdown style groups, such as ‘End the Lockdown in Australia, ‘ Digital Warfare’, and ‘Australia Freedom Alliance’, and larger, established anti-vaxx groups, such as ‘Australians for Safe Technology’.

During the research period, subscription to these groups grew by 280%, and as of March 2021, these groups had a combined total of over 115,000 members, generating over 2.66 million interactions.

Reset Australia noted that the surge in online followers coincided with Australia’s growing vaccine hesitancy. A University of Melbourne survey found between October 2020 and February this year, the percentage of Australians willing to get the COVID-19 jab fell by 8.2% from 74% to 66%.

“Reset Australia’s research shows a direct correlation between surging anti-vaxx misinformation on Facebook and Australia’s growing vaccine hesitancy,” said Chris Cooper, executive director of the Australian affiliate of a global body fighting against digital harms to democracy and society.

“Social media has supercharged conspiracy theories and misinformation, pushing some people into echo chambers where false information is all they see.”

The research found engagement with the Facebook groups exploded during the initial national lockdown. Melbourne’s lockdown restriction generates over 177,000 monthly interactions, and this engagement has remained consistently high.

Members of the group ‘Wake Up Australia’ frequently shared links, photos, videos, and statuses with false and misleading information about the pandemic and vaccines.

Reset Australia found common themes included: the safety and efficacy of vaccines including the promotion of treatments using Ivermectin (201 mentions) and Hydroxychloroquine (601 mentions); threats to civil liberties and personal freedoms that lockdowns pose; mandatory vaccination programs (1649 mentions); the political and economic motives of leading political figures such as Bill Gates (1390 mentions) and Dan Andrews (1592 mentions); and well-established and novel conspiracy theories such as The Great Reset (927 mentions).

Mr Cooper said public groups like those Reset Australia monitored were often gateways to private groups which shared more radical and extreme content. This research only captured a small snapshot of the true extent of misinformation on Facebook.

“Public Facebook groups are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to track and tracing anti-vaxx and COVID-19 misinformation.

“The real danger of rampant vaccine hesitancy and scientific skepticism is tucked away in algorithm-created bubbles of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, where ideas fester and spread, unseen and unchecked by mainstream conversation.

“Previously believing the earth is flat or Bill Gates wanted to microchip the entire world would have been socially isolating. You couldn’t casually raise it at after-work drinks and handing out conspiratorial pamphlets wouldn’t win you many friends.

“But now social media can instantly find you thousands of like-minded people who are eager to reinforce and exacerbate your misguided views.”

Reset Australia has developed a policy, the Data Access Mandate for a Better COVID-19 Response in Australia, that would allow public health officials, researchers, and journalists access to anonymized data about what COVID-19 related content is being shared in these kinds of private groups.

This policy would force social media companies to generate a ‘Live List’ of the most popular COVID-19 related URLs shared on their platforms, including in private and public groups, and keep it updated in real-time. Such a Live List would help Australian public health authorities identify anti-vaccination narratives to inform community engagement responses.

“Those who want to tackle misinformation head-on have no idea where to look. They are left to blindly fight false information because it’s tucked away out of sight in algorithm-created corners of the platforms.

“A Live List would begin to quantify the extent of misinformation and help us target appropriate misinformation to disrupt the conspiratorial feedback loop.”

THE REPORT CAN BE FOUND HERE

WHO-UNICEF concern over “self-defeating strategy” that excludes 2.5 billion missing the corona vaccine

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 11 February 2021: The WHO and the UNICEF have expressed grave concern over almost 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people being left out of the corona vaccine administered so far. The 128 million vaccine doses have been administered in just ten countries covering 60 percent of the global GDP.

A joint statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from New York and Geneva on 10 February 2021 says:

“As of today, almost 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose.

“This self-defeating strategy will cost lives and livelihoods, give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines, and will undermine a global economic recovery.

“Today, UNICEF and WHO – partners for more than 70 years – call on leaders to look beyond their borders and employ a vaccine strategy that can actually end the pandemic and limit variants.

“Health workers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic in lower- and middle-income settings and should be protected first so they can protect us.

“COVAX participating countries are preparing to receive and use vaccines. Health workers have been trained, cold chain systems primed. What’s missing is the equitable supply of vaccines.

“To ensure that vaccine rollouts begin in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021, it is imperative that:

·Governments that have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at highest risk of severe disease share vaccines through COVAX so other countries can do the same.

·The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, and its vaccines pillar COVAX, is fully funded so that financing and technical support is available to lower- and middle-income countries for deploying and administering vaccines. If fully funded, the ACT Accelerator could return up to US$ 166 for every dollar invested.

·Vaccine manufacturers allocate the limited vaccine supply equitably; share safety, efficacy, and manufacturing data as a priority with WHO for regulatory and policy review; step up and maximize production, and transfer technology to other manufacturers who can help scale the global supply.

“We need global leadership to scale up vaccine production and achieve vaccine equity.

“COVID-19 has shown that our fates are inextricably linked. Whether we win or lose, we will do so together.”